On paper, the Chicago Sky didn't stand much of a chance of beating the Minnesota Lynx, the defending WNBA champion and winner of 11 straight games.
Little did we all know, though, what the Sky did with that "paper" before Tuesday's game against the Lynx at the Allstate Arena.
It was as if the Sky, fighting for its playoff life, crumbled that paper into a ball, stomped all over it and then tore it into little pieces for good measure.
Against significant odds, against a team that has been rolling since July 10 and leads the WNBA in most major statistical categories, the Sky coolly took apart the Lynx for an 83-70 victory. And it did so without injured star center Sylvia Fowles to boot.
"This does so much for our confidence," said Sky guard Epiphanny Prince, who torched the Lynx for a game-high 26 points, including clutch free throws down the stretch. "This shows us what we can be, what we could have been. Hopefully, now, we can sneak into the playoffs."
The crucial win keeps the Sky (12-17) alive in the race for the playoffs. Entering the game, the Sky trailed the New York Liberty for fourth place in the Eastern Conference by a half game. Now, the Sky owns the advantage.
It's been that kind of roller-coaster season for the Sky, which got off to a franchise-best 7-1 start and had that momentum cut off at the knees when Prince broke her foot in mid-June. She missed nine games and the Sky twisted aimlessly to a 1-8 mark.
The struggles continued even when Prince returned healthy after the Olympic break. Overall, the Sky lost 13 of 14 before finally stopping the bleeding with a win in Connecticut on Aug. 26.
Since then, the Sky is 3-3 and had two of its best showings in the last week. Besides beating Minnesota (24-5) the Sky also upended the Los Angeles Sparks, the second-best team in the Western Conference. On top of that, the Sky got a must-have win over New York in which Fowles barely played because of the calf injury that is still hounding her.
"This (stretch) is a great confidence booster and gives us great momentum," said backup center Carolyn Swords, who scored 11 points and pulled down 9 rebounds in starting for Fowles. "We know that if we can just stick together and continue to execute that we'll be in good shape heading forward."
The Sky, which also got 17 points out of guard Courtney Vandersloot, shot the ball well overall (46 percent) and from 3-point range (44 percent), took care of the ball (only 13 turnovers) and controlled the boards. For the first time in franchise history, the Sky allowed zero second-chance points. And Minnesota is the No. 1 rebounding team in the WNBA.
"They brought more effort than we did," said Lynx forward Maya Moore, last year's rookie of the year who scored 18 points. "We didn't come out wanting to get second-chance points as badly as they did and they deserved to beat us in that category. We just got out-worked."
Like the Sky, Minnesota was also down a key starter. Leading scorer Seimone Augustus (17.2 ppg) sat out her second straight game with an injured ankle.